US bans old-style British passports

US bans old-style British passports

May 6, 2016 American border security rules which risk ruining British family holidays to the US should be introduced by the UK amid heightened security fears, experts have said.
Ministers have been urged to consider following the American example and impose sweeping requirements for visitors to hold biometric passports.

As first reported by The Telegraph in December, British travellers heading for the US are now required to possess a modern electronic passport under the long-standing “visa waiverâ€_x009d_ scheme.

The move has led to some families being turned away at airports because their travel documents are the old-style paper version, which do not contain a biometric microchip.

However, counter-terrorism experts said Britain should consider similar steps to reduce the risk of terrorists using false passports to enter Britain.

Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, said: “I absolutely think ministers should be considering this.

“People wanting to come to the UK should be required to have state-of-the-art passports.

“It is in everybody’s interests that our borders are secure. We should be pushing for this.â€_x009d_

British passport holders benefit from a long-standing deal which means they do not need a visa to enter the US.

But among Britain’s 50 million passport holders, an estimated five million currently possess older travel documents which do not contain an embedded microchip.

It means they will have to renew their passports early at a cost of at least £72.50 if they wish to travel to America.

British holidaymaker Cathy Macpherson described how their family trip was put at risk because they were caught out by the new rules just days after they came into force.

“Unfortunately we didn’t realise and when we tried to check in at the airport as a family we discovered that my husband’s passport was not valid,â€_x009d_ she said.

“Andy, my husband, was issued a non-biometric passport in July 2006 which is valid till April 2017.

“As you can imagine our four-year-old was absolutely distraught.â€_x009d_

The family eventually secured another flight after buying a new passport, she said.

Even completing the online security form – known as Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) – in advance had not given them any warning that the passport would be rejected, Mrs Macpherson said.

Apart from Britain, 37 other countries are permitted to take part in the existing visa waiver scheme, allowing visitors to remain in the US for up to 90 days.

The US review was launched in the wake of the attacks in Paris by Islamic State terrorists, one of whom was a citizen of Belgium – one of the US visa waiver states.

British passports have a microchip embedded in the cover which contains an electronic version of the holder’s photograph, as well as the information on the personal details page of the passport including date and place of birth, nationality and gender.

The microchips were first introduced in Britain in 2006, and with 50 million UK passports in total in circulation it means roughly five million non-biometric documents have about a year left to run before they expire.

Around 3.8 million British nationals visit the United States every year.

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